Twenty – Mistress of Kellynch
Anne found herself cradled against the warm, hard body of her husband when she awoke. Sunlight filled the room and kissed their naked forms on top of the rumpled bed. Frederick was still asleep, he was lying on his back, one arm above his head, the other holding her close. She was lying half on top of him, she saw, suddenly blushing with embarrassment! Could she do that? Was she allowed to fall asleep in her husband’s arms? Did husbands not wander off to their own private bedrooms after having made love to their wives? She remembered one night, when she was a little girl, she had been startled awake during a thunderstorm. Frightened and crying she had escaped from the nursery and run to her mother’s bedroom. She had burst into it, waking her mother with her crying. Her mother had been sleeping alone, then. Sir Walter had not been there. Later she understood her father “visited” her mother in their marital bed when he wanted to make love to her and left afterwards.
God! She hoped Frederick would never do such a thing!
Her fond eyes roamed over the splendid body of her beloved husband. The long, lean body and legs, the muscled torso and his beautiful face, his thick, fair hair. She couldn’t resist stroking the silken skin of his chest, touching the fine spread of fair curls that tapered down to his waist and … below …
She wondered at the anatomy of man, how would it feel to have such a …
A hand pulled her head down and Frederick was kissing her ardently! Heat rushed through her as she felt him readying himself again! Oh, heaven … oh, joy! She was ready, she would always be!
Much later, replete with pleasure, they lay in each other’s arms, their fingers still stroking whatever part of their body they encountered.
“I may have to be a bit cross with you, husband,” Anne chuckled, her mouth against Frederick’s.
“Oh? Why would that be, wife? Have I not pleasured you enough? Did I not fulfil my husbandry duties well enough?”
“You, my sweetheart, are teasing me to no avail! I heard you shout out with pleasure many times over, during the past night! Do not try and deny it!”
He gave a low rumble of laughter which set Anne’s senses afire again. She turned towards him and laid herself on his body, like a blanket. Frederick’s breath quickened in response.
“I am angry at you, husband, because you waited so long to teach me all this delight! Think of what I might have been missing during all those long months of waiting!”
Wentworth grabbed her and held her very, very tight.
“Well, my darling, let us not waste any more time and continue with your lessons!”
A few weeks later, Mr and Mrs Wentworth gave their first grand ball at Kellynch, for all their neighbours to witness their happiness. Anne stood proudly at her husband’s side at the foot of the large stairway in the hall and they both welcomed their guests as they entered to pay their respects.
Anne was glowing with happiness and she frequently stole a moment to squeeze her Frederick’s hand and give him a warm smile, which he returned readily.
She was – and she had absolutely no doubt about it – the happiest woman on earth!
We have reached the final chapter of ‘A Magical Letter’. I hope you will join me next week for
Between Boredom and Brilliance
My own, dear continuation of Emma by Jane Austen after the 2009 BBC adaptation.
Nineteen – When Two Become One
“Where are we going?”, Anne asked, while she settled herself in the crook of her husband’s arm as their curricle was being driven away by the groom. He had been acting all mysteriously about their destination and Anne longed for them to be there and alone with Frederick.
“Patience, my darling,” Wentworth answered.
He was revelling in the feeling of her close to him and he had been dreaming of what he would experience with her very soon now. Anne, who was a bit tired, after the long, busy day, felt very comfortable and soon, she was asleep against Frederick’s shoulder.
When she woke up, the curricle came to a stop and, in the late glow of the setting sun, she beheld Kellynch Hall, her home.
“Oh … oh, Frederick … are we going to stay here, at Kellynch?”
“Yes, my darling,” Wentworth answered. He helped her step down from the curricle, swept her up into his arms and walked toward the front door of the manor. It was opened as if by an invisible hand and Wentworth stepped through, ascended the long sweep of stairs, turned into the corridor on the right and kicked open the door to the master bedroom. There he set his stunned wife on her feet again.
“Oh, Frederick! You have been refurnishing this room! How utterly lovely!”
Anne danced around the spacious set of chambers, the large semi-circular bedroom with the huge four-poster bed, the more than generous bathroom with a double-sized bathtub, the two dressing rooms and the salon, where a light supper had been laid out for them.
“Do you like what I did? Do you like the colours?”
“Yes, yes, oh yes! They are lovely, they are so right! Thank you, thank you!”
She jumped into his arms again and kissed his mouth in exuberant joy!
Frederick did not let go of her but deepened their kiss, stroking her back.
Anne’s heart fluttered! She pressed into him, putting her arms around his neck, pulling him even closer. She heard him gasp and a shiver ran down her spine and settled deep down in her stomach. How lovely, how exciting … she became aware of his body as he lifted her from her feet and the low part of her own body met the correspondent part of his.
Now it was her turn to gasp.
“What is it, my love?”, Frederick asked hoarsely, “Have I frightened you? That is what you do to me, sweetheart, I cannot help it …”
“I know … I … I just … I was just surprised, that is all!”
She touched his breeches and he drew a deep breath.
“I should very much like to investigate this further …”, she whispered.
Wentworth set her down and reached for the veil and tiara on her head. Anne closed her eyes as he gently began pulling out the hair pins. Soon enough her hair was falling down her back in long, heavy, dark brown curls, which felt so soft and silken to Wentworth’s now trembling fingers. He moved his hands to her back and undid a few buttons of her gown.
“No, my love. Now it is my turn to remove an item of your clothing.”
Her voice, warm and sweet, had Wentworth trembling all over. His heart was racing when she eased his coat from his shoulders.
“My darling, I must warn you,” he chuckled, a rumbling deep in his throat, “I have far more items of clothing than you have. You will be naked far more sooner than I will.”
“Very well, my husband. I shall remove your waistcoat and boots too, then.”
She began with the waistcoat and when that was done, he had to sit down, of course, in order to pull off his boots. Anne wanted to pull him on his feet again but Wentworth’s hands suddenly hoisted up her skirts and then she was on his lap, where her thin, silken drawers touched the bulge in his breeches. She let out her breath in delight! This was heaven! Instinctively she moved in his lap, eliciting a gasp from him that filled her with mirth.
“I hope I did not hurt you, husband?”
“No … not at all, wife! Do not stop, my darling, please?”
“I must confess my movements are a bit hindered by those skirts, husband.”
“Fear not, wife. I shall remediate that immediately.”
In two seconds she was in her corset and chemise.
“Ah, ah, ah!”, she admonished, “My turn, sir!”
Wentworth was stunned! How charming Anne was and how … well, bold!” He was delighted!
Now her mouth was claiming his again while her hands were undoing the buttons of his shirt. Oh, the feeling of her soft hands on his bare skin! Delight, pure delight!
“Frederick … you are … so beautiful!”
Her words were lost into his kiss, for he thrust his tongue deep into her mouth and she answered him fully.
Oh! Now she did not wear her corset any longer! His hands were stroking her back, her buttocks, her stomach, through the thin silken chemise, starting flames wherever they roamed. Anne gave him back every caress as much as she could, how could she not touch, stroke and savour those hard muscles of him, yet feeling so silken soft under her fingers!
All of a sudden he had her on the bed!
Before her avid eyes he undid his breeches, slid them down to reveal his long legs. Anne was breathing hard now, when he got rid of his stockings and small clothes. Oh, heavens above! He was magnificent! All hardness, all virility, so beautiful, so manly. Her hands simply had to touch him, feel the length of him, steel under silk, all the way.
Wentworth gasped as he felt her hands on his arousal, nearly sending him over the edge! With a huge effort, he managed to collect himself.
“My turn, wife!”, he commanded and began peeling off her stockings, stroking her legs from foot to thigh and back again. Anne arched her back under his movements but she sobbed in anticipation when he drew her chemise over her head and then, her drawers down her legs.
She instinctively spread them and Wentworth’s heart turned to water.
From then on, Anne could only feel his hands on every part of her trembling, shaking, hot body!
She seemed to manage to caress his too, though she did not know how! They kissed, caressed, kissed, licked and tasted until Anne thought she might explode!
Then … he was inside her and she arched into him, wanting to come as close as possible. She could not understand how that sweet, hot tension could build further and further still … she was riding a wave and, seconds later, she was thrown amidst the stars in heaven!
Wentworth broke down in ecstasy as he heard her cry of release! The world exploded as he held her shaking body close in the shock of their fulfilment. They cried out together, over and over again, as violent waves of pleasure rolled over them.
When they finally calmed down, they were still clinging to each other, as if afraid to let go. And, maybe they were … after all the misery they had gone through.
Seventeen – Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Anne actually smiled, albeit a little sadly. She put down the horrible letter Sir Walter sent her and looked at Wentworth and the Crofts, a quiet determination in her gaze.
“Dear loved ones, do not fear. My father has done me a great favour by sending me this. He has set me free!”
She took Frederick’s hands in hers and smiled into his anxious eyes.
“Do you not see, my love? Sir Walter might be my natural as well as my legal father but he does not love me. He has never done so. By this letter, he breaks all ties between us. I am no longer bound in duty nor love to obey him. I can live my own life, finally, after all these years of emotional slavery!”
Wentworth gave a gasp, full of distress.
“Anne, I know you! You will suffer the consequences of this break-up sooner or later. He threatens to call you before the Courts! In the end, it will harm you, emotionally and physically!”
His betrothed straightened her back and all at once, Wentworth saw a completely new Anne. She was strong and proud and she would not ever let her life be influenced by Sir Walter again.
“No, my love. As always, my father has acted like the impulsive, stupid man that he is, once again. He has probably bullied his lawyers in writing this, even if they told him, he did not stand a chance. I am of age, he cannot call an adult daughter before the Courts when she wishes to secure a marriage of which he disapproves. I have an independent income from my mother’s inheritance. Long time ago, I took the precaution of making inquiries about the rights of unmarried daughters. In fact, I did so, right after our break-up, eight years ago, dearest. I did not want to be left defenceless, should my father would want to interfere again later on my choice of marriage. Even in my numbing state of grief over us being ripped apart, I knew I had to arm myself against my family and I did.”
Wentworth uttered a suppressed cry and rushed forward to take her into his arms. His sister and her husband quietly left the room.
There was still the problem posed by Mary and Charles, Anne told Wentworth, later that evening, when they had dinner, together with the Crofts.
“I must try and help Mary as best as I can, Frederick,” she said, “I know she is a silly and shallow woman but she is heavy with child and her emotions are running amok. Father will not lift a finger to help her and if Charles does not take her back, she will be ruined. I do not dare to think what might happen when he should threaten to take the children from her.”
“Yes, of course,” Wentworth agreed, “we must prevent them from leaving each other, if not for the sake of little Charles and Lizzie. Listen what I have arranged, my love, I think you will find it to your liking.”
Anne looked at him, surprise in her eyes, and then she saw the Admiral and Sophie nod in acquiescence.
“Do not look so surprised, my sweetheart! I told you I would not let anything come between us anymore! I have sent a courier to Mr and Mrs Musgrove and explained the situation to them. The man returned just before dinner and in his reply, Mr Musgrove stated that he and his wife would take care of it right away. They would leave for Bath immediately and speak with Charles. I am pretty sure that Mr Musgrove has some leverage in the matter as he plans to cut Charles from his will if he does not right this misery!”
“Oh, Frederick! What a good idea of you!”
Anne jumped up from her seat and flung herself onto his lap, kissing him ardently! She had completely forgotten about the Admiral and Sophie and, to be honest, so had Wentworth.
After dinner, that night, the couple decided to retire early, because they had a busy day ahead, the next morning. They mounted the stairs hand in hand and Wentworth accompanied Anne to the door to her room. In awkward silence, they stood gazing into each other’s eyes, each of them feeling the sweet tension of desire rising.
Wentworth’s voice was raw with longing and Anne shivered with pleasure.
“You know we must part now, do you not, my darling?”
“Yes …” she breathed, her throat dry and her heart thudding.
Wentworth lifted a hand to cup her cheek, taking a deep breath.
“I do not dare touch you more than this, my heart … for fear I would be swept away by my feelings for you. Never think I do not want to do more, my love, but I respect you too much.”
Anne swallowed hard and covered the hand on her cheek with her own. She turned her face into it and kissed its palm in a shy, but, oh, so sweet way. Wentworth almost lost it as she looked at him the way she did now.
“Tomorrow, my love, we will be one. We will have our whole lives to be one every night to come. Yes, Frederick, I can wait … if you can?”
“I can, my love. Goodnight, sweet dreams, my heart.”
He withdrew and Anne entered her room, dazed by happiness and frustrated because she would be all alone, this last night.
Sixteen – The Long Wait
Wentworth, feeling better after he made his vow to himself, took his Anne into his arms once more.
Oh, how he loved her! She fitted so perfectly in his embrace … how was he to wait for tomorrow until he could make her his very own?
Anne’s voice was soft and sweet.
“Yes, my love?”
Revelling in the soft warmth of her slender body against his, Wentworth closed his eyes. Without knowing it, he pulled her closer to his own, very alert body …
“Frederick, I love you. If … if you want me to show it to you, I would not have any objections nor restraints. I am yours, Frederick. Another day of waiting is too much for me to bear.”
His heart beat so fast and hard he thought it would jump out of his chest! Oh, God! What was she saying? Could he? His body was in great need, his arousal throbbing and urgent, but could he? How she must love him if she was ready to surrender to him now!
Anne’s pulse raced as she said those disturbing words to her one and only love yet she had no regrets. She meant what she had just said. When he held her like that, so close to his own body, warm and wanting, she was simply melting with need. For that was what it was, the need to be his, to be his and only his.
Wentworth simply had to capture her lovely mouth with his and kiss her senseless. God! What torture! No! God! How sweetly she tasted, how exhilarating! When he felt her arching into him, pressing herself against him in sweet surrender, he moaned into their kiss with frustrated pain.
“Anne, my darling, my love, my heart … we must stop this … please, my very own, do not tempt me further! I cannot go on …”
As she withdrew from his kiss, Anne was so disappointed she could not keep her tears from flowing down her cheeks.
“Frederick, do you not want to make me yours? Do I disgust you so?”
Wentworth took her face between trembling hands. Softly, while gazing into her beautiful hazel eyes, he said, “My sweet love, I do so fervently wish for you to become my wife that I can barely wait until we are wed. But, my heart, wait we must. Not until we will have exchanged our marital vows, shall we become one. I deeply respect and honour you, Anne, and I will not claim you before we are married. Please, love, say that you understand and that you approve?”
“Yes … yes, I do, Frederick. And I think you are right. I just had the wrong notion of what you were saying. Thank you, my love. But, Frederick, today seems to go on forever and I want it to pass much, much quicker.”
Wentworth gave a low rumble of a chuckle, deep in his throat, sending shivers of pleasure down Anne’s spine, just by the sheer warmth of it.
“Me too, my sweet, me too!”
Then he kissed her and they both forgot the rest of the world around them.
Before the long day was finally over, the Crofts, Wentworth and Anne had to go through even more distress, when two letters arrived, one addressed to Anne and another to Mary.
The letters had been sent by their father’s solicitor and their contents were disturbing, to say the least.
Mary’s letter said the following:
To my daughter Mary Elliot Musgrove,
After been informed by my son-in-law, Mr Charles Musgrove of Uppercross, of your infamous act of deserting the conjugal home, I wish to make a statement as to how you will be treated in the future.
You are no longer a daughter of mine, Madam. Your husband will no doubt want to divorce you, an act I have encouraged him to proceed with. You will have no financial support from him nor from me.
Do not, Madam, seek to contact me, for I will deny you entrance to my home.
Sir Walter Elliot, baronet.
Needless to say poor Mary fainted after reading this. She was put to bed and the doctor was called for.
This, however, was the content of Anne’s letter:
To the person who used to live under my roof by the name of Anne Elliot,
Madam, I have addressed an official complaint to the office of Mr Justice Grantby of the Peace Court in His Majesty’s City of Bath. The said complaint is aimed against you for insulting and disobeying me in my wishes for your future as you are determined to secure an unworthy marriage. You will receive a subpoena in due time and must present yourself to the Court mentioned above.
A second complaint is aimed against one Frederick Wentworth for seduction and abduction of Miss Anne Elliot and for acquiring the estate of Kellynch on a false base of confidence. Said person bought the estate without my knowledge and without my explicit permission.
As for the future relationship between you and myself, I wish to inform you that I do not want to see you again or hear of you in the years to come. You, Madam, are dead to me.
Sir Walter Elliot, baronet.
Sophie Croft gasped and her husband, the Admiral, let out a cry of outrage.
Wentworth stood petrified with disbelief but Anne …
With an effort, Wentworth hid his irritation. Was there never a moment of peace for him and Anne?
“What is it, Howard?” he asked the footman whose face bore an agitated expression.
“Sir Walter Elliot and Miss Elliot, sir.”
Wentworth turned to his betrothed with a quizzical look.
“What can your father possibly want with us, darling?”
“I do not know nor care, Frederick. I … I cannot see him after … Frederick, he threw me out on the streets!”
“Stay here, my love. I will go.”
In the hall he found an impatient and highly irritated Sir Walter and an extremely bored Elizabeth. Why did the two of them always come together? It seemed Sir Walter could not do anything without his vain, shallow, eldest daughter at his side.
Sir Walter eyed him crossly and all but barked at him.
“Sir, oblige me and lead me to my daughter. It is of the uttermost importance that I speak with her immediately!”
Wentworth raised an eyebrow in surprise.
“And which daughter would that be, sir? There are two of them residing under this roof at the moment. If it is Anne you wish to see, I am very much afraid I must disappoint you. My future wife refuses to speak with you.”
Sir Walter’s face turned into an ugly shade of beet red.
“Sir! I demand to …”
“Be quiet, sir!”
Wentworth’s thundering voice stopped Sir Walter in his tracks.
“You do not have the right to demand anything of my dear girl anymore, after what you have put her through! Your heartless behaviour nearly killed her!”
Sir Walter’s expression did not even change!
“Whatever do you mean, sir? How dare you make such an offending accusation! I will have you whipped, sir!”
Wentworth closed his eyes in exasperation. This man was impossible! Yet Wentworth knew he must keep his composure lest Sir Walter would have the upper hand.
“Sir, I must ask you to leave this house as we speak. Anne, as I mentioned earlier, has no wish to speak with you. She has been under your loveless treatment for years and it must end here and now. In the future I will make it my most important task to shield her against further heartbreak! Now, go! Leave Anne alone, she does not need you.”
He motioned to Howard, the footman, who stepped forward and pointed a white-gloved hand to the door. Sir Walter eyed him haughtily, then seemed to understand what the gesture meant. His face grew a vivid red and his breathing became faster.
“You are showing me the door? You? How dare you? What, pray tell me, is your position in civilised Society, that you think yourself my equal? I, Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall, baronet in the service of His Royal Highness, George, Prince of Wales?”
Wentworth’s voice now shook with rage when he answered.
“I, sir, Frederick Wentworth, Captain of HMS Augusta Sophia, sailing for His Majesty King George’s Royal Navy, hereby command you to leave this house now or be thrown out by my footman. You have exactly one minute to oblige, sir, and your time goes in now!”
Elizabeth, who had been bored up until now, let out a gasp of horror. Before Wentworth realised was she was about to do, she ran from the room, crossed the hall and burst into the room where Anne was sitting on the settee.
“Ah, there you are, Anne! Well, let me tell you what a fine scoundrel of a man you have landed yourself with! He insulted Father! He, a nobody and a naval man to boot, had the audacity of telling Father to leave! If you have one shred of decency left in your body, you will act upon it this instant!”
Anne rose, her knees trembling. She took Elizabeth by the wrist and dragged her to the drawing room. There she faced her father and said in a calm, unruffled voice, “Sir, I must order you to leave. You have violated the serenity of this house, which is unforgiveable.”
Fourteen – An Appeal to the Conscience
Wentworth and the Admiral had not long gone when the footman announced another visitor to Anne and Sophie. Both ladies had been wondering how Frederick would go about enticing Charles Musgrove to taking his wife back. They agreed it would not go smoothly, for Society did not take kindly to a woman who left her husband on her own accord. Charles had every right of banishing her from her home, taking her children away from her, and divorcing her without a single penny to her name.
Charles Musgrove hurried into the room and bowed.
“Mrs Croft, I am extremely sorry to burst into your drawing room so rudely but I have to speak with my sister-in-law at once. In private, if you please?”
“Well, I am sure …”, Frederick’s sister hesitated.
Anne laid her hand on Sophie’s arm and reassured her it was perfectly proper for her to talk to Mary’s husband without a chaperone. Sophie withdrew, and Anne bid Charles to take a seat.
He settled himself on the settee opposite hers.
“My dear Anne,” Charles began, “I take it Mary is here? With the children?”
“Yes, Charles, she is. She is resting now, and the children are being cared for by their nanny.”
Anne leaned forward and looked at Charles in a pleading manner.
“Charles, what has happened? Why is it that Mary is in such a fine state of uproar? Is something wrong with her health, or with the baby’s?”
Charles’s good-natured face clouded, and he looked away from Anne’s enquiring gaze.
“Your sister is making a mountain out of a molehill, Anne. She always does so. You know that she does!”
The last words were said with vehemence and impatience, and Anne startled. She knew Charles to be a placid, quiet man who seldom raised his voice but now he seemed in an uproar. So Anne waited for him to unburden himself.
“Anne , you must help me in this! It is that … I am afraid that … well, Mary has … blast, this is so difficult!”
“Take your time, Charles.”
“I need you to convince her to come back home, I am sure she will listen to you! You know, she … she saw …”
The drawing room door burst open, and a flushed Mary was standing on the threshold.
“I saw him kissing one of the maids, that is what! He was cheating on me, his lawfully wedded wife, the mother of his children! And me pregnant and ill!”
She stormed towards him, poking a finger into his chest and snapping at him.
“I will never forgive you for this, Charles! I want a divorce and I want …”
“Mary, Mary, calm down! Come and sit down, you are not well!”
Anne managed to get her sister into a chair whereupon Mary burst out in tears. She sat there, so forlornly, that Anne felt a stab of compassion for her unfortunate and – alas- harebrained younger sister.
When right after that Sophie entered, Anne took her aside and whispered, “Will you stay with her for a moment, Sophie? I want to speak with Charles alone.”
Frederick’s sister nodded and Anne took Charles by the arm and led him to the Admiral’s study.
“I am listening, Charles. Is it true? Are you cheating on Mary?”
“Yes .. no! That is … I did kiss Ginny but … confound it, Anne … I was … oh, I cannot explain this to you, Anne! You are still unmarried and you would not understand!”
“I do understand, Charles, but I do not approve. Mary is in no condition to grant you your dues as her husband and you … you just grew impatient. Do you realise that you have hurt her deeply, Charles? Was it so difficult for you to curb your … needs?”
Charles’s jaw dropped, just dropped! He could never have imagined that his maiden sister-in-law could see through him like she had just done. How did she know all this? Unless …
“You speak so rashly about things that you should not yet know of! How come, Anne?”
Charles eyed her in a suspicious manner and then, the expression on his face turned to very ugly, all of a sudden. Anne blanched as she realised what he meant!
“Is it true what the rumours are saying, that you have been … deflowered by the devilish Mr Elliot?”
“You will not speak such words to my future wife, sir, or you will have to answer to me!”
Frederick! Thank Heaven! Anne breathed out in relief at seeing her betrothed standing on the threshold. His handsome face was livid with rage, and he was barely keeping himself from trashing Charles Musgrove then and there.
“Wentworth! I did not mean to …”
“Sir, it would be better for you if you departed from this house this instant.”
His voice was like ice, and Anne saw he was trembling with the effort of keeping his hands to himself.
“But … my wife! I cannot go without her, Wentworth! Surely you must understand that!”
“You will go, sir! Your family is to be remain here under my care, and I will see to it that all their needs are provided for. When we have agreed upon a solution, we will inform you of it.”
“Please, Charles, do as Frederick says. It will all be resolved within a few days.”
Reluctantly Anne’s brother-in-law went out when the footman came to summon him away. Anne hastened to take Frederick’s hand in hers.
“Dearest, do not upset yourself over this matter, I beg you. My sister Mary always manages to put herself into some kind of trouble, yet always the trouble resolves itself. Unfortunately not before she has put the entire household into shambles with her whining and complaining.”
“Anne, this … this scoundrel has had dealings with a maid in front of his wife and possibly the rest of the household! It is unforgiveable. Moreover, his poor wife is pregnant and unwell. He should cherish her and care for her instead of frolicking with other women. God! To think I have been hunting with him so many a time! Had I but known!”
Wentworth took hold of her shoulders and pulled her to him. He buried his face into her lovely hair and said, “He insulted you, my love. I do not know if I can ever forgive him for that.” His voice broke with emotion, and Anne touched his face in a infinitively tender gesture.
“My sweet love, it is of no consequence. You do not think of me as he and the rest of the world do. So I am not insulted. Do not fret about it and for sure, do not break up your friendship with Charles. It is not worth it.”
“Do you even know how much I love you?”, Wentworth whispered, gazing deep into her eyes. He lowered his face to kiss her, a tender, sweet kiss at first but deepening as he tasted the nectar of her mouth, the softness of her lips, her shyly probing tongue. His longing for more made him hold her even closer, and she responded to this by pressing her slender body against the solid mass of his chest. God! How passionate she was, Wentworth thought.
A forceful, loud knock on the drawing room door made them jump apart in guilty haste!
Thirteen – A Spanner in the Works
Only a week now separated Anne and Wentworth from their wedding day.
Every possible preparation had been dealt with, every dress or shoe or headdress been bought, any paperwork been gone through. The affianced couple finally had the opportunity to take a bit of leisure time and enjoy each other’s company, often seeking quiet, lonely places, such as dark corners in garden and house. Many a time Wentworth, deeply in love, could not help himself and had to pull Anne into his arms and kiss her. She, loving him beyond everything, was all too willingly surrendering to him.
To her own amazement – and secret joy – Anne learned something about herself during those enchanting moments of discrete intimacy with Frederick; she was longing for yet more intimate encounters with her dear husband-to-be. Ironically enough, Elliot’s doings – disgusting as they had been to her – had revealed sensations in her hitherto virginal body. She was aching to rediscover these sensations through Frederick’s touch, after they were married. Although she was somewhat ashamed of her thoughts on this subject, Anne could not help but feeling a thrilling anticipation over what was to come.
Bath, April 10th 1816
Tomorrow is my wedding day.
How I am managing to write these words without a trembling hand, I do not know but there it is. I do not believe there is a more happy woman in all the world than I, Anne Elliot! Even the absence of my family will not put a damper on my joy; of that I am truly convinced.
Father has not shown himself nor has he given word.
I do not understand why he is acting as if I were the one that offended him when I did not. I never did anything to hurt him. I have loved him, helped him, worked for him without a word of complaint, all the years after Mother’s death. My only rebellion against him is my marriage to Frederick, and I do not think this is worth all the fuss he makes. His attitude pains me greatly, of course. Without my dear Frederick I do not know how I would be able to bear this.
My sister Elizabeth has not deigned to visit either. I now realise that she must have hated me for a long time, probably all my life. How is such a thing possible? Why can we not have an affectionate sisterly relationship and enjoy great pleasure together?
My cousin, William Elliot, has been in the custody of the Bath Constabulary for about a week, but after that, his attorney of law managed to bail him out. He has retired to his estate in Kent. I hope I will never set eyes on him again for the rest of my life.
I hear the door bell ringing. Someone must be visiting and I shall conclude my writing here.
“Anne, dear sister! I am in the greatest of uproars, so great that I cannot eat nor drink nor sleep! I am so weak and ill! Anne, you must help me! I do not know how to proceed! Sit still, Charlie! Lizzie, leave that be! Oh, my poor head!”
Anne barely had the time to intercept her two-year old niece Elizabeth before she could grab the delicate porcelain figurine on the side table and smash it to the floor. Her nephew Charles Junior sat on the settee, already wriggling in boredom and ready to dash about the room. She looked at Sophie in bewilderment and shock.
Sophie Croft addressed Anne’s sister Mary Musgrove in a friendly way when she asked, “My dear Mrs Musgrove, how nice of you to visit! Are these your lovely children? How …”
Mary, impetuous and rash as always, interrupted her.
“Mrs Croft! Anne! I am at a complete loss! I do not know how I will survive this, if ever! I am forced to leave my husband Charles as I cannot stand to be in his presence a moment longer!”
She dabbed her eyes with a fine lace handkerchief and sniffed emphatically. Anne, reeling from what she had just heard, asked, “But, Mary, am I to understand that you left Charles’s house after you had a disagreement with him?”
Mary’s voice had now reached the level of shrillness it always gained when she was pressing an argument.
“It is much more than a simple disagreement, Anne, I assure you! It is a rift, a break-up! I am leaving him and I intend to file for a divorce!”
An hour later, Mary, her children, her nanny and her maid – both of which she had brought along – were settled into a suite of rooms in Admiral Croft’s spacious Bath town house. Food had been served, and the Croft’s family doctor had been summoned to tend to the heavily pregnant Mary. Indeed, Anne’s sister was in her last month and she did not bear the burden of her third pregnancy well. Anne was thoroughly upset with worry on that part.
Now, Anne and Sophie had retired into Sophie’s private sitting room to discuss what was to be done with this newly presented fact. Fortunately, Frederick and the Admiral arrived soon thereafter and were informed of the latest events.
“Well,” Frederick said, “I was wondering what would transpire next to compromise our wedding day but I am sure I could never have foreseen this. Why does your sister turn to you, my love, when she has a father and an older spinster sister to confide in?”
Anne smiled bleakly.
“Because, dearest, I am the one to be burdened with all the trouble that befalls my family. I am the one to deal with all their problems and predicaments, sooth all their pains and illnesses, imaginary or other, lend a compassionate ear to all their grievances. Can you understand how utterly sick and tired I am growing of all this?”
“Indeed, I can, my sweet, and it shall end here and now! Admiral, I beg you to accompany me to Mary’s husband, Charles Musgrove. I want him to come and collect his family and no nonsense about it!”
Eleven – Reunited
When Wentworth planned to seek out Harriet Smith, it dawned on him that, regarding Anne’s life and circumstances, he was only at the beginning of getting to know her. Where would he start looking for Anne’s friend? Where did she live?
Damn! He had been stupid not to ask her when Mrs Smith had sought him out, three days ago. He had simply called her a carriage and sent her home. Well, he would have to ask the only other person who might know, and that was Lady Russell.
She was about to leave her house in Camden Place when Wentworth arrived. He startled her yet again, in fact, he was glad to see that she had been thoroughly shaken the previous time they met.
“My lady, forgive my intrusion, but I am looking for some information you might be able to partake with me. Do you know the whereabouts of Anne’s friend, Mrs Harriet Smith?”
“Why … erm, yes, Captain Wentworth, as a matter of fact I do. She lives in that dismal block of rooms near the road to Bristol, Westgate Buildings. She … erm, she has of not much of a breeding; I’m afraid , she …”
“She is Anne’s friend. That is good enough for me,” Wentworth cut her short. He made his bow and left, already disgusted by her shallow judgement yet again.
When twenty minutes later, he returned to his lodgings in the company of Mrs Smith, a surprise awaited him. In the drawing room the bedraggled figure of Mrs Penelope Clay rose from the settee.
Wentworth’s eyes narrowed at the sight of her. This was the widow who had been clinging to Sir Walter’s arm before she had turned her attentions toward that slippery eel Elliot. He bestowed her a stern look which she totally ignored.
Instead she came forward, gripped his arm and said in an urgent voice, “You have to help me, sir! Anne is in great danger! She is being held captive by William Elliot, and he wants to force her into marriage by ravishing her. She will have no other choice but to become his wife!”
Anne recoiled in absolute horror when she felt Elliot’s hands sliding up her thighs.
“Please, William … I … I am untouched … I have never …”
“You have never let that Wentworth chap take a sample out of you? Oh, come on, Anne, you had a fierce love affair with him years ago.”
She could not believe what she had just heard!
“You … you know about Frederick? How ..”
“Surprised you there, haven’t I? Oh, yes, my dear, I know everything there is about your sordid little love affair because I made it my business to know. You have been my most coveted target for years now, since you were the easiest way to get to your nitwit of a father and his damned baronetcy!”
“Stop!”, Anne gasped as he was tugging at her drawers. She tried wriggling out of his grasp and then suddenly remembered she had actually freed herself from her bonds. When her drawers were torn to shreds, she finally reacted; with a hard shove, she raised her knee, right where she thought to hurt him the most.
Unfortunately Elliot had foreseen her move. He pinned her leg under his and pulled her mouth to his by grabbing her hair in a painful grasp. She gagged when his tongue invaded her without mercy.
In huge panic she felt his hand on her and desperately tried to get away from him.
A voice like thunder boomed hard enough to pierce through the red haze before her eyes. The next second her assailant’s weight left her trembling body, and Anne blissfully fainted.
Wentworth nearly choked on his red hot rage when he saw what Elliot was doing to his beloved Anne. He threw himself at his enemy and sent him from her with one mighty shove. Giving the other time to recover, he quickly rushed at Anne’s side and covered her with a sheet. Blast the villain!
Then an arm around his neck was pulling him up, suffocating him in a grasp of steel.
The many man-to-man fights he had experienced on his ship during battle provided him with an answer to an attack from behind. He let himself go limp, so that Elliot was taken by surprise and was drawn downwards. Wentworth was then able to grab his collar and throw him over, whereupon he served him a dry cut on the jaw. Elliot did not move again after that, and Wentworth neatly tied him up by hands and feet. To the two women who had followed him into the room he said, “Mrs Clay, go and call for a police officer. Mrs Smith, come and assist me with Anne.”
They obeyed him without question.
“Mrs Smith,” Wentworth pleaded, “you have seen what he did to my sweet girl. Kindly restore her clothing so that I can take her with us in the carriage without her being exposed to curiosity and shame.”
His voice had given way during his last words and Harriet Smith laid a hand on his arm in compassionate affection.
“Rest assured, Captain. I will care of her. Thank God she is unconscious.”
Anne reluctantly opened her eyes when the light became too bright to ignore. The smiling face of Frederick was the first thing she beheld and her heart leapt with joy.
“My dearest, loveliest girl …,” he whispered, his eyes glistening with tears of relief.
“Shh, shh, be still, my darling. Everything is well now, I found you and I will never ever let you go out of my sight again.”
There was so much Anne wanted to say but she knew not how. There was so much she did not know had happened, too. A million questions were milling around in her head, making it spin and ache.
Frederick’s gentle voice soothed her instantly, however.
“My own, sweet love, my treasure, my Anne … how you must have suffered …”
He took one of her hands and raised it to his lips. They felt firm and warm and his breath upon her skin was sending tiny flames down her arm.
“I have failed you, my love. I have tolerated this. I have not prevented nor foreseen this. I can only hope for your forgiveness and I promise you, I give you my word that it will never happen again.”
Ten – Danger of Ravishment
“Sir Walter. Miss Elizabeth.”
Elliot bowed and received Sir Walter’s bow before he took Elizabeth’s hand in his and kissed it. She looked up at him and blushed becomingly, which annoyed him. He did not, however, let it show to her.
“My dear Sir Walter, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit? I do not recall that we had agreed on meeting each other today?”
“Ah, my dear cousin William, I shall call you “William” as we are indeed blood related.”
Elliot was now beyond annoyance and downright angered! This pompous ass of an uncle of his had ignored him long enough before calling him “blood related”. Elliot had only worked himself into his uncle’s circle again to secure a marriage to one of his daughters, preferably Anne and – he must not forget that little predicament – prevent his vain uncle to marry again. To that end he had seduced silly Penelope who had quietly entered the drawing room after him. But, he saw, Sir Walter was about to explain the reason of his visit.
Until he saw Penelope!
“William! What is that … that creature doing here? I demand that you cast her out! She insulted me in a most demeaning manner and I cannot bear to lay eyes on her!”
Bewildered, Elliot took “the creature” by the arm and ushered her out, whispering, “One of your foul tricks again, eh? I swear you will pay for that! Go to your room and wait for me there!”
Furious because he did not know what she had done to Sir Walter, Elliot turned a sweet face towards his uncle again.
“Do not pay attention to her, Sir Walter! She must have managed to slip in through the servant’s entrance again, it is not the first time. I must take measures against that woman for she continues to persecute me in a most offending way. Please, be seated.”
He rang the little bell, sitting on one of the side tables, and a footman appeared. “Bring us some refreshments!”
Sir Walter and his daughter – she was still fluttering her eyes at Elliot – were fussing over seating themselves to the point of ridicule in ensuring the most attractive way of draping their garments around their persons. Elliot had to bite his lip not to burst into laughter! What a nice set of peacocks they were, nice, empty-headed and vain peons!
Anne had just managed to free her other hand when the door of her room opened again to let Penelope Clay in. The woman was in tears!
“Penelope!”, Anne exclaimed, “Whatever has happened? You must tell me!”
“Oh, it is so dreadful! William is making eyes to that sister of yours, Anne!”
Swallowing back her surprise, Anne realised that Penelope did not seem to note she had just betrayed Anne’s identity to her and that she, Anne, must feign astonishment at this!”
“What are you calling me, Penelope? Anne? Is that my name?”
Penelope sank onto the bed and took Anne’s hands.
“Yes! You are Anne Elliot, and William is your cousin! He wants to marry one of Sir Walter’s daughters! He does not care which one, you or Elizabeth!”
Anne stroke the woman’s face with the back of her hand. Despite what she had done in the past, Anne could not help but feel sorry for her. She was, after all, a widow, left in miserable circumstances, even though she was Mr Shepherd’s daughter. Her father only wanted to take her back in to make her a cheap and malleable servant tending his household. Anne only knew too well the humiliations a position like that brought upon a person.
“Penelope, he does not love you. You know that, do you not? When my father was courting you, William was terrified that he would wed you and beget an heir by you. That is the only reason why he lured you away from Sir Walter.”
The poor woman was now openly weeping. Anne could not bear it and took her into her arms.
“Listen, dear, we will help each other in this. I do not wish to become his wife, I hate him! Help me escape from this house, and I will take you with me. I am to become the wife of Captain Wentworth and I will need you as my confidante and friend. God knows I cannot turn to my sisters for that purpose.”
“You will? You would do such a thing after all the misery I have brought upon you?”
“Yes.” Anne smiled at her.
“We must hurry! He will return soon!”
She began working on the bonds on Anne’s feet.
“No,” Anne said in a determined voice, “I can free myself but you must leave this house right away. He is bound to lock you up in your room now that he is no longer certain of your cooperation. You must go to Queen Square, to Admiral Croft’s lodgings and inform Frederick of what has occurred.
Please, Penelope, will you do that?”
“Yes …”, she whispered and stood.
With a faint little smile for Anne, she turned and hurried out of the room. Anne then attacked the bonds on her feet.
Elliot was trying hard not to appear impatient while Sir Walter launched into an elaborate account of what had transpired in the Pump Rooms that morning. As if he would be interested in such shallow occupations! Finally he succeeded in squeezing in a word when the older man had to draw breath.
“Sir Walter, I very much appreciate your visit, especially since I am aware of the extreme amount of social encounters you have to entertain daily. So, forgive me for being forthright, but to what do I owe your presence today?”
The baronet cleared his throat in an affected manner, righted his cravat and drew his laced cuffs out of his coat. He then sat a bit more upright and began, “You will be pleased to know, dear William, that I have taken measures to punish Anne for her outrageous behaviour towards the kindness you showed her. She is no longer considered a daughter of mine. However, a slight inconvenience has occurred which is bound to throw a blemish on our family’s good name. The silly chit seems to have disappeared. You, erm, might not have an inkling about her whereabouts, by any chance?”
What followed next, was an exchange of ooh’s and ah’s and well-have-I-ever’s. No, Elliot ensured Sir Walter, he did not know where Anne might be. Half an hour passed before the comedy drew to an end, Elliot getting more and more impatient by the minute. Finally, Sir Walter appeared to be satisfied. He also seemed relieved rather than worried and soon took his leave. Elliot took the steps two at a time to get back to Anne.
“My dear Anne!”
Elliot entered and contemplated the figure of his cousin who was still lying duly tied by hands and feet upon the bed. He let out a sigh of relief because he had not been sure what he had done when the Clay woman interrupted them earlier. All the time during his boring conversation with Sir Walter, he had asked himself if he had left her there tied up or not. Seemed he had, thanks be to God!
“Now, where were we, before we were interrupted? Ah, yes, I was very agreeably occupied in exploring your delectable body, was I not?”
He let himself down on the bed next to Anne and removed his coat and gloves.
“What are you doing, William?”
A hint of fear sounded in her voice, and she tried to shift away from him.
“I am going to claim you as my bride, my dear, in a way that will let no room for rejection. After I am done with you, there will be only one thing for you to do and that is to marry me as soon as possible. Do I have to make myself any clearer?”
Revelling in the genuine look of terror in Anne’s eyes, he began unbuttoning his breeches.
“William, I beg of you, do not act like this! What have I ever done to you that you would force yourself upon me?”
Triumphantly he took her chin into a grasp of iron and sneered, “You had the effrontery of refusing me when I proposed to you, you little wretch! I see that your memory has returned? No, do not try and deny it, it is written plainly all over your face. Do you think you can slight, humiliate, make a fool out of a man like me and get away with it?”
With one quick gesture he shoved Anne’s nightgown upwards and took hold of the drawers she wore under it.
Nine – Coercion
As her capturer kissed her, the onslaught of his mouth was so fierce it was overwhelming her!
Violent disgust threatened to choke her as his lips were crushing hers and his tongue was invading her mouth with uttermost cruelty. She must not show this to him!
Suddenly the memory of another kiss was coursing through her and with it, the sheer delight she had once felt as Fredrick kissed her. Frederick! Frederick Wentworth, her betrothed, her one and only love! And she … she was Anne Elliot, engaged to be married to Frederick and this cruel assailant was William Elliot, her cousin, with the morality of a chimpanzee and the cold heart of a snake!
Frederick … dear, sweet, kind Frederick … who was restored to her after so long a time and whose kisses, full of deep, thrilling love, awakened a fire in every fibre of her body …
Oh, yes! Anne knew what to do to fight off this fiend that was of her own family and blood!
She applied herself fiercely in answering that assaulting kiss of Elliot’s, even though her nausea was putting up its ugly head . Think of Frederick, who must be going mad with worry! Let Elliot think you believe him! Make him lower his guard. Try to break free and return to Frederick.
Elliot unexpectedly released her with a gasp.
“Christ, Anne! Where did you learn to kiss like that?”
Anne smiled innocently at him.
“Why, my dear sir, I would not know! Was it you who taught me this, maybe?”
Elliot’s hand loosened the back of her head though she was still trapped in his arm like in a vice. It travelled up and down her neck with soft stroking, brining loath in its path. She kept her pasted smile on her face, desperately thinking of Frederick.
Her ordeal, however, was far from over. Elliot’s hand now wandered to her breasts, bare and corset-free under the cotton nightgown.
The list of Dr Widdicombe’s patients covered four pages of a large ledger, each page containing three columns. Sifting through it took long, tedious hours and interrogating the persons, attached to these names, would take even more hours, equally long and tedious. The outcome of such an interrogation did not guarantee success in finding Anne either. Many names on the list were acquaintances of Wentworth’s, some were even friends. The very thought of interrogating them did not sit comfortably with Wentworth nor with Constable Jeffries.
Wentworth’s mood was at its deepest. Anne was now missing for three whole days and the chances to find her were shrinking by the hour. It was abundantly clear that someone was determined to harm her, possibly kill her. Witnesses, who could have given a clue of her whereabouts, had systematically been eliminated. They knew she was hurt and had possibly suffered a head injury, according to the boot boy’s tale.
No, Wentworth mused, the answer to this riddle lay not within action but within reflection.
What were the motives that were invoked when a person became a target to some other devious and criminal mind? One of them could be money; many a person had been murdered in order to gain an inheritance or to steel valuables. Anne was poor; her father had squandered away his income from Kellynch. She had received a small bequest after her mother’s death but that was but a minor allowance.
Another motive could be revenge over an insult or some other deed that incited a bad person’s rage.
Again, Anne had done nothing wrong in her whole life; she was the finest of souls with a kindness to everyone she met. Always had she put herself aside for the good of others, even if those others had bad intentions towards her.
Sighing deeply because he saw no solution to his trouble, Wentworth decided to go and talk with Harriet Smith, Anne’s best friend. If anyone knew his beloved even better than he did himself, it was Mrs. Smith, he thought.
“Mmm … so soft and round,” Elliot’s voice hummed. His hand cupped her breasts through the fabric of her nightgown and caused Anne to shiver in repulsion. He, however, mistook it for delight and grew bolder. His finger were fiddling with the buttons at her throat!
“Dear sir,” Anne managed to whisper, “what kind of girl would I be, should I succumb to your subtle seduction? Would you not despise me if I should allow you to take the most precious thing a woman can give? Her purity, her virginity, something she may only give to the man she loves on their wedding day?”
Elliot eyed her in a strange way, unbelief and suspicion in his gaze.
“So … you remember loving me?”
Anne gave a shrill peel of laughter.
“No … dear sir … I cannot lie to you about such a delicate matter, but I do recall a presence in my former life of a gentle and kind man, who loved me and respected me and wished to make me his wife.”
“That was me, Anne! Do you recall that evening some five days ago, at a concert, where you were unwell and went out to take some air? I followed you and declared my love to you; I proposed and you accepted. Your father and sister were overjoyed and we started making the preparations at once.”
His face was now alight with eager enthusiasm. He took her by the shoulders to lift her up and kiss her when he noticed only now that she was still tied op the bed.
“Ah!”, he grunted and began to loosen her bonds. Anne’s heart was beating frantically; she would be free!
Suddenly the door opened and Anne recognised Penelope Clay, standing there with deep hurt on her still pretty face, at seeing her lover with his hands all over Anne. Elliot turned his head to Penelope in exasperation.
“What is it, woman? Can you not see I do not wish to be disturbed?”
“I beg your pardon, William, but you have a visitor. Sir Walter and Miss Elizabeth are downstairs asking to be received by you.”
Elliot hastily stood and ushered Penelope out of the room. He threw a long look at Anne, as if debating what to do, then thought the better of it and left. However, he did not forget to turn the key in the lock.
Anne took a deep breath and gathered her strength. One of her hands was free!